I guess after luring women onto her pirate ship, X kills them one by one with her artificial hand-knife.

Notes I sent to TB:
– Call chinese orlando, stop.
– “Ottinger” must mean “one-take” in German
– I feel like Bertrand Mandico has watched this movie more than once.
– This fits in nicely with the avant-garde traditions, in that some things (color, music, costumes, visual concept, counterculture vibes) are really good, and others (pacing, sound sync, pacing, mst3k-ass acting, pacing) are unbearable.
– But is the pacing unbearable because we are brainwashed by commercial cinema… would I rather be watching Mission: Impossible 5 because that’s the style of movie the capitalist system taught me to enjoy… I dunno, it’s worth questioning, but when I break free from hollywood pacing I like to break really decisively free (ahem Stray Dogs), while this feels more like a really slow John Waters movie. Fails to cast a spell, and if you only pay half attention it dissipates entirely.
– Feminism, tho. I guess.
– And a macaw if you make it to the end

After reading Beatrice Loayza’s essay for the new box set, I had to watch an Akerman movie. But I cannot tolerate silence in a home screening, so, per the artist’s original intent, I made a playlist with Colleen then Titan to Tachyons then Tomeka Reid Quartet.

Static camera, hanging around in the hotel lobby and hallways and especially elevators, even getting into a couple rooms. Then back to the hallways… long static takes of hallways. Then movement! Dolly up a hallway, looking out the window at NYC, impressive jump cut from night to day, back up and down the hallway. Movie ends on the roof, slow rotation looking out at the city, the movement reminding of La Chambre. Akerman had moved to NYC and made these films with DP Babette Mangolte, both artists influenced by Michael Snow, then Mangolte shot Snow’s Rameau’s Nephew the following year.

So many funny things about the opening violence montage, from the extremely Monty Python-reminiscent beheadings to how Bresson, who cares so very much about performance style, cares less about blood-spurt mechanics. Text crawl says the rest of the action takes place after fruitless years of searching for the holy grail. The king misses all his dead knights… his nephew Gawain is restless… everyone hates Mordred… and Lancelot is busy having an affair with the queen. At a jousting tournament L fights his own guys and everyone gets hurt – Bresson ignores the knights and films their horses. Lancelot is missing presumed dead after the tournament until he returns and kills Gawain and steals the queen (then returns her). Mordred has had enough and takes the castle, King and L fight together, everyone dies.

Short and swift with excellent color (on my copy, at least). I can’t find who was just saying it’s one of the all-time most annoying movies to overhear from another room (clank, clank). The only actor who’s been in other films is Lionel: Humbert Balsan, who got picked up by Rivette, Brisseau, Pialat, and Sam Fuller.

Jonathan Rosenbaum:

According to Michel Estève, neither the tents nor the Round Table nor the chess game nor the wooden tub in which Guenièvre bathes belongs to the period, all of them constituting conscious anachronisms on Bresson’s part. This is a distinctly modern Lancelot, in striking contrast to the relatively “medieval” atmosphere of Bresson’s last two films, both set in contemporary Paris, where the gentle creature in Une Femme Douce often suggested a lonely maiden in a tower waiting to be rescued, and the dreamer in Four Nights of a Dreamer resembled a wandering knight in search of a pure love that was equally hopeless. The sense of elongated durations and passing seasons that we associate with the romances of Chrétien de Troyes is more evident in Balthazar, or even in John Ford’s The Searchers, than in the tightly compressed episodes of Lancelot, where action and event is all.

Brigitte Mira (The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser) plays the most naive German woman ever, who hasn’t heard about racism. She wanders into a bar full of foreigners to get out of the rain, doesn’t know how bars work, and Moroccan mechanic Ali is coerced into dancing with her. He starts coming over, and she blurts out that they’re married as a cover story to the landlord, so they really do get married, and her kids (incl. Irm Hermann and the director) disown her. The grocer bans her, coworkers stop speaking to her, only the landlord doesn’t seem to mind, weird to make a landlord the sympathetic one. When the happy couple returns from vacation everyone warms up to them, realizing they each need something from Brigitte. Marital woes – he is after all 20 years younger and she refuses to make couscous, then strange ending, he’s hospitalized for a stress ulcer after they’ve made up. Movie lives up to its high reputation, looks beautifully Kaurismakian, people standing very still when it’s not their turn to speak.

When this was filmed almost all the featured performers were still alive (exceptions: Judy Garland & Clark Gable, who get nice tributes, and Jean Harlow & Maurice Chevalier). There are two more of these musical clip shows, which we’ve previously watched, now Katy wants a That’s Entertainment for Westerns.

A follow-up to last year’s program, with some non-’73 films added for context.

Heavy-Light (1973, Adam Beckett)

Video ghosts pong across the screen then engulf it, again and again with different RGBs and forms, sometimes in sync to the electro-spectral music. Adam seems cool – he was an animation pioneer who worked with the Hubleys and on Star Wars, and died young in a fire. Music by Barry Schrader, president of the electro-acoustical music society, who has recently worked with Wadada Leo Smith.

Evolution of the Red Star (1973, Adam Beckett)

After a Chairman Mao intro we get rippling pen and paper red/blue line worms slowly blobbing across the screen, the shining red star and other geometrical pulsars holding fast in their spots. In the second half someone seems to be tweaking the settings on their tube TV until the rich color of the red star is restored and takes center stage again. Music by another electro-acoustical pioneer, Carl Stone, whose last few albums made some major top-tens.

Diary (1974, Nedeljko Dragic)

Man is walking, then driving, going through as many transformations as the animator can dream up. Party and city scenes, mouse chasing cat, wild color shifts. English words and letters threaten to transform all people into language, but abstract forms win the day, and the man looks miserable about it. Better music than usual, always changing forms to suit the visuals. Won the grand prize at Zagreb.

Production Stills (1970, Morgan Fisher)

Simply a film documenting its own making in real-time. We hear the crew working and discussing and see flashes as someone takes polaroids then pins them to the wall in front of the film camera. Reminds me of Michael Snow’s book.

P. Adams Sitney on Fisher: “Very quickly he became the most academically reductive practitioner of minimalist filmmaking … steadfastly resisted the sublime. Instead, he invented cinematic paradoxes.”

Picture and Sound Rushes (1973, Morgan Fisher)

Fisher gives a a film technique lecture about picture and sound sync, reading from notes at a desk while an 11-miute timer counts down. We keep losing either sound or picture or both, as he explains why this will happen, breaking down the film’s structure – we lose sound and can’t hear the full description, but we’re also seeing it in action, so we can piece together the missing information. Self-reflexive structural pranksterism – the film is a lecture on itself and a demonstration of its own techniques.

The Wilkinson Household Fire Alarm (1973, Morgan Fisher)

One-minute take of a rotating fire alarm which starts spinning then loses momentum like a wind-up toy.

De?licieuse catastrophe (1970, Piotr Kamler)

Very blobby 3D scenarios. Person wearing bootleg liquid-engorged optical-illusion sweater engages with the Q-Bert bouncing sphere and plays his horn for a dust sprite until the electro-score gets stuck in a loop and the whole world overflows. The music is by – you’re not gonna believe it – an electro-acoustical pioneer, Robert Cohen-Solal. Kamler was Polish but his whole film career was in France

Cours de secours / Heart of Relief (1973, Piotr Kamler)

Ornate cut-out cyclist balancing act upon a tug-o-war rope. Chess players atop the circus stack escape via light-balloon to correct imbalance caused by clockwork romantic pursuit so they can return to their game. Score by Francois Bayle, a “major figure” in electro-acoustical music.

Le Pas (1975, Piotr Kamler)

Papery sheets peel off from the gleaming pink surface of a cube and land neatly in a new spot until the entire cube is transposed. A couple sheets stay airborne caressing each other in a film-edit lock-groove but eventually rejoin the cube. The sound is ethereal shimmers by Bernard Parmegiani, whose diverse body of work is mainly dedicated to electro-acoustical music.

Orb (1973, Larry Jordan)

Following up Our Lady of the Sphere, more play with cut-out illustrations. Epilepsy-sun becomes balloon, ancient statues join an RGB disco, everything kinda floats away into space.

Once Upon a Time (1974, Larry Jordan)

The same colors from the last movie with more direct music and less direct visuals. Narrated story about hearing a bird. Another voice, now it’s a radio play with a woman asking a bird for help finding the missing prince – she locates him in the bardo and says he must be born again.

World (1970, Jordan Belson)

Sphere-lens smoke, the universe in a crystal ball. Sunflower spot patterns, TV static eyes, ink-blot anemone. A really good one. Wiki says Belson and Harry Smith got their start at the same time, but it’s Larry Jordan who reminded me of Smith… also says Belson did effects for The Right Stuff, that movie keeps coming up lately. P. Adams Sitney says this one is constrained “by a banal musical soundtrack,” says the abstract geometry recalls Allures.

Meditation (1972, Jordan Belson)

Symmetrical spark shower, crashing waves, a human diver, then back into the ether, sphere-blobs slowly becoming other terrains and galaxies, the audio striking bells ringing long notes.

Light (1973, Jordan Belson)

Piano score, very water-surface-looking light patterns, then wind, then rising sun. Blooming patterns as the music turns dark and electronic, harp with abstract forms in outer space, finally lens flare leading to fiery apocalypse. Can’t figure out how he did any of this.

RIP Alan Arkin, who even the day after watching this I was back to getting confused with Alan Alda. If I’d checked what else I’ve seen by Hiller I might not have watched this silly movie, but it’s a solid excuse to watch Peter Falk for 100 minutes. Mismatched guys’ kids are about to marry, Falk gets Arkin mixed up in an international incident, the movie staying ambiguous whether Falk is criminal or CIA or insane. They’re finally taken to the General who plans to crash the global finance system, and rescued from firing squad by American forces. Arkin had recently played Freud, Falk was between Muppet movies.

The Guys:

El General: Richard Libertini of the Unfaithfully Yours remake

BONUS: David Paymer’s first feature

Wenders apparently working without a script, just putting two guys together and following them around – a good idea, turns out.

Rudiger* Vogler isn’t a writer/photographer this time but a traveling film-projector maintainer. He picks up rider Hanns Zischler after watching him roar his Volkswagen into a river, and they barely speak, just proceed along the route of small movie theaters in western East Germany.

One night they’re woken by a guy despondent over his wife’s suicide – second Wenders in a row where a suicide causes a mood shift. Hanns walks off to the town where his father lives, visits/harasses him at his newspaper office. After this cathartic visit he thinks Rudiger should also have a cathartic visit home, so they borrow a motorbike and sidecar. After all the not-talking, they do finally get drunkenly combative and introspective, but part on pretty good terms.

Hanns and the sad man in the jukebox-equipped back of the truck:

Commentary says the photography was an homage to Walker Evans, the photographer who also inspired Upland Stories. I’ve seen the rider in a few things, including Clouds of Sils Maria and Dr. M. Man who lost his wife was in a bunch of Fassbinders – he’s the landlord in Fear Eats the Soul. Alice’s mom (of the Cities) works at a theater in one town, a Lang Mabuse actor plays the rider’s dad.

*Okay, first all my old posts‘ diacritics went bad, and now my macbook isn’t letting me make new ones by holding down vowel keys.

Alice’s mom with Rudiger:


Essential equipment for long drives:

Of Romero’s Dead movies I’ve only seen Land in theaters, so after watching Night in the best edition I’ve ever seen, I figure why not follow up with the others. This opens with real chaos in a TV studio, then the weatherman takes his girl Fran and two cops Ken Foree and Roger in the weather chopper and get the hell out of there. Despite the zombie apocalypse Romero wants to be utopian: when another cop at the station is being racist and violent, other cops kill him before he can shoot more civilians.

After setting up in the mall storeroom they go on risky missions to enforce their position. Blocking the main entrances with trucks, Roger has an unpleasant close-up encounter with a Z and goes kill-happy then gets bitten twice. The TV couple toughens up and learns to shoot, and while he’s teaching Fran to fly the chopper Tom Savini spots them and gathers his biker raider crew to take the mall. Flyboy is enraged that they’re stealing what he stole and starts shooting. Ken takes out Savini and they’re winning against the bikers, but the Zs have overrun the mall again and they swarm Flyboy in an elevator.

News team in red:

Cops in blue:

Besides all the action we get some good comic moments – I liked Flyboy checking the price of a jacket then putting it back on the rack – and the music is often pointedly ridiculous. Lonely despair is also addressed – the chopper lessons were an attempt to break free from their shut-in depression, and Ken considers suicide before joining Fran in the chopper at the last second. All lead actors were solid. I’ve recently seen Ken in Lords of Salem… Flyboy went on to Basket Case 2, Roger did Knightriders and the Dawn remake, and Fran did Creepshow and Madman.